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Why are the English cheering for the Irish at the Olympics? -- All changed utterly as old foe embraces Irish competitors

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Irish Olympic team greeted with a warm reception in London
Des Cahill, an Irish sports commentator, put the cat among the pigeons yesterday when he tweeted “The English public are giving massive support to all the Irish athletes at the Olympics. It’s embarrassing, knowing it is not done in reverse.”

His tweet drew a massive response. His point was clear. At every competition where an Irish athlete was participating, the English fans cheered and clapped loudly, second only to their support of their own athletes.

It was clear from the opening ceremony that the English crowd heartily approved of the Irish team as they walked into the stadium. The US, British, and Irish teams got the largest cheers according to media who were there.

What is going on?

As Des Cahill pointed out, it is highly unlikely that the Irish, if they were hosting, would cheer as loudly for the British.

I guess it has to do with conqueror and conquered but also with more recent events which have taken the edge off the sad history.

Queen Elizabeth’s visit to Ireland last year was truly a watershed. Her conciliatory actions there and the massive approval of the Irish people registered heavily in Britain, where she is seen as the ultimate class act by many.

The fact that The Troubles are over and that Londoners, in particular, no longer go around worrying that they will be targets of an IRA bombing, also improves relations dramatically.

When the violence stopped, the healing began and the relationship now is on far more equal terms.

Many Irish for their part proclaim they are still anti-British, but after seeing the work that men like Tony Blair did to make the peace process happen, not to mention the apology for Bloody Sunday and the Famine, it is hard to hold that grudge much longer.

Besides, there has been been so much intermingling over the years that the shared ethnicity is a binding factor.

Take soccer legend Wayne Rooney, born of Irish Catholic stock in Liverpool. Take Tony Blair whose childhood holidays were spent in Donegal with relatives, or take Danny Boyle, whose mother is from Galway, who pulled off the massive Olympic opening ceremony, as examples.

It is a very healthy and welcome sign that the British are cheering for the Irish in London and it is no exaggeration to say that the day will come soon when it is reciprocated in Ireland.

That is how it should be for two countries who have been so intertwined in a negative way for so long but who are now learning how to live together so much better.

The Olympics and the reception for the Irish is another step forward in the right direction.

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